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Optometry Professor Uses MEDC ADVANCE Grant to Hasten Development of Eyewear with Cochlear Implant

cochlear implantA modification to benefit users of eyeglasses and cochlear implant devices has been developed by a team from Ferris State University, led by Daniel Taylor, the Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs for the Michigan College of Optometry. Mechanical Engineering Technology students collaborated on placing a processor element on the spectacle frame, which should ease discomfort reported by those who have had both processors and frames seated above their ear. The project has been supported with a $45,000 ADVANCE grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

An effort prompted by a father’s interest to bring his son comfort has moved from Ferris State University laboratories to product development professionals thanks to a $45,000 ADVANCE grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

It was Fall 2018 when Daniel Taylor, the associate dean for academic and student affairs in Ferris’ Michigan College of Optometry, considered his son’s difficulty, where a cochlear implant and the temple of his eyeglasses occupied the same space.

“People who only require a cochlear implant do not encounter this problem,” Taylor said. “What we have worked on would assist those who have wear issues with the combination of their processor and the temple of their glasses coming together behind their ear. It generally presents a problem for those over the age of 40, or school-age children who cannot make use of contact lenses.”

Taylor brought his idea to Ferris’ Product Design Engineering Technology program and began work with its students in Spring 2019.

“We did the formative study through this group, and alumna Jaclyn Vander Ploeg was able to use this as her senior project,” Taylor said. “Jaclyn has gone on to begin her career in Holland but continues to stay involved, as we have developed an alpha prototype. It has an element that attaches to the spectacle frame and processor, with no competition for space, so the device is secure, comfortable and facile to use.”

The design provides a secure connection between a pair of eyeglasses and the implant that offers ease of removal, as necessary. Taylor worked with Ferris’ Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to pursue the ADVANCE Proof of Concept grant, with $23,284 of the funding coming from the state. Ferris provided the match funding to receive the award.

“We looked into the market potential for what we call our ‘Protoconch,’ which showed a small but viable opportunity,” Taylor said. “This state funding will allow our contractors, In2Being LLC, of Saline, to flesh out the design from the alpha prototype, for potential commercialization of the product, or dispensation of our patent.”

Taylor said that he is looking forward to receiving this next prototype from In2Being, knowing that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect their testing process.

“The MCO will likely be a test site, but assembling a representative group of users may be difficult,” Taylor said. “I would certainly look to have my son serve as a participant.”

Ferris’ Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry Sonali Kurup also received $47,200 in ADVANCE grant support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative in Fiscal Year 2020. That funding assists her research into novel agents intended to develop small molecule inhibitors for multi-resistant lung cancer cases.